chapter  17
10 Pages

Maladjustment

The delinquent girls who reached us were predominantly from unskilled, semi-skilled and dependent social gradings, and the parents tended to be inarticulate. They needed to be drawn into seeking and accepting help. Not only the girls themselves had suffered the kind of shocks and deprivations which set them aside from their contemporaries, but their parents (or remaining parent) had often suffered loss of partner, or much ill-health in the home, or the guilt and bewilderment of one or more children appearing before the Courts. This is not the setting from which many treatable cases come to Child Guidance Clinics, unless the latter are geared to this sort of problem. If an appointment with the Clinic is made for the delinquent and parent through the School it may not be kept, or may well lapse after the first interview. Travelling some distance to talk things over does not come easily to many mothers of delinquents-some one to drop in, and figuratively hold their hand would better fill the bill. In any case, an overworked service like Child Guidance has to put the child on a waiting list, and the speed with which things happened to our girls meant many new crises before even the beginning of treatment. Dr Ivy Bennett,1 in Delinquent and Neurotic Children, says (p. 225):

As far as could be judged from the Shaw records, 63 per cent of the 500 sample (but down to 46 in the 100 sample) had not been referred to a Child Guidance Clinic, nor to a Psychiatrist working in a Hospital, even for a pre-committal report. Of the 37 per cent who had been referred, 23 per cent were referred while on remand only, which means one interview. At least this service had been extended by 1957, so that 38 per cent were seen as remand cases. A report from this session was usually given to us by the Probation Officer, or Child Care Officer concerned. As it was a report specifically for lay Magistrates, its usefulness to us varied. Sometimes the reports were most helpful, but only a few seeing our admissions seemed to have specialized in the diagnosis and treatment of the adolescent girl, or of the delinquent of any age or sex. Some showed in their reports a sympathetic comprehension of the girls' problems. At the other extreme was one particular Psychiatrist who left the girls so perturbed that a similar situation (including cognitive testing, which this doctor had included in her session) brought out grave anxiety. 'I wouldn't answer these questions at--, and that was to a doctor, so I'm not going to answer them for you!' And refusal in test sessions was as unusual with us as were tantrums with our own Visiting Psychiatrist.